Southern California is a little less well known than the north, with San Francisco, the famous Yosemite Park and the gigantic city of Los Angeles. Yet it’s a region well worth visiting, with its wide-open spaces and diverse climates and landscapes. From Los Angeles to San Diego, embark on a breathtaking destination.

1. A day in Palm Springs

The rectangular roof of the old 1960s gas station shows you the way: at the Palm Springs Visitor Center, you’ll find all the documentation you need to discover the city. Start your visit at the Palm Springs Art Museum, where you can admire works of contemporary Californian art as well as pieces of ancient Native American and Mexican art.

Before a well-deserved lunch break, stroll through downtown to discover art galleries and antique shops specializing in objects from the 1940s to the 1970s. Then head to Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Spring’s main shopping street, for a bite to eat in a chic restaurant or on the go, as you prefer.

Road Trip to Palm Spring

After this break, it’s time to take to the skies! The Aerial Tramway is the city’s main attraction and an experience not to be missed. In 15 minutes, you’ll cross 5 climate zones to reach the top of the San Jacinto mountains. The slow 360° rotation of the cabin allows you to admire breathtaking stretches of desert and cliffs. On arrival, admire the panorama with a drink at the Pines Café. 80 km of hiking trails are available to explore the Coachella Valley landscape.

On your return to town, spend your evening at the Parker Hotel, where you’ll bump into a few celebrities dining at Mister Parker’s.

2. The Mojave Desert: Joshua Tree

Arriving from Palm Springs, you’ll enter Joshua Tree National Park from the west, where more than 323,700 hectares await you. Put on your hiking boots and take one of the many trails, with or without a guide. If you’re an avid climber, the park boasts no fewer than 8,000 climbing routes for all levels and 400 rock formations. But make sure you know all the regulations.

Starting out from Joshua Tree, and provided you have a suitable vehicle, there’s a 28 km car circuit that takes you through the magnificent and fascinating landscapes of the national park.

Another attraction is the Keys Desert Queen Ranch. During a guided tour, you’ll discover the history of an old ranch still in operation and the family who lives there.

Road Trip Los Angeles to San Diego

The Mojave Desert, Joshua Tree

To make the most of Joshua Tree National Park, spend the night in one of the 300 campgrounds. It’s the best way to enjoy the sunset, but above all, the starry sky. Away from light pollution, you can enjoy the nocturnal spectacle offered by the night and the stars. And during the night, you may be lucky enough to hear coyotes howling in the distance.

Whether you visit on foot, by ATV or by car, don’t forget that you’re in a desert, with all the caution that implies! So make sure you’re well prepared.

3. Head for Anza Borrego Desert State Park

Head south out of Joshua Tree National Park to discover another lesser-known, but not uninteresting park. At 2,420 km2, Anza Borrego Desert State Park is the largest state park in the USA (outside Alaska). Here, the sky is intensely blue, and the flora and fauna are typical of a desert climate with high temperatures and very little rainfall. Anza Borrego Desert owes its name to Juan Bautista de Anza, a 19th-century explorer, and to borrego, Spanish for sheep, which refers to the region’s typical mouflon sheep.

Your first stop for sightseeing is likely to be The Slot. This “slot canyon” has been shaped over time by water run-off. Although not the largest or most impressive canyon in the USA, it’s well worth a visit and will bring back memories for viewers of the film 127 Hours.

Continue on to Galleta Meadows a little further north. A veritable art gallery in the middle of the desert, you’ll stroll among 129 metal sculptures by Californian artist Ricardo Breceda, several meters high and depicting dinosaurs, scorpions, elephants, cacti, wolves, dragons…

End your visit in Palm Canyon with a stroll through this oasis and a night at a resort admiring the stars.

4. Mountain hiking and the Hale telescope

A change of location and climate: head for Palomar Mountain. With its flat mountain range, lush vegetation and abundant wildlife, this hike is ideal for recharging your batteries and contemplating the natural surroundings. The trail leads straight to the Palomar Observatory at 1,710 meters above sea level, a popular destination for astronomy enthusiasts.

A center for astronomical research, the observatory is one of the world’s best-known scientific facilities. It houses the Hale telescope, created in 1928 by astronomer George Ellery Hale (1868-1938). At the time, its 5.08 m diameter made it the largest telescope ever built. In 1948, the famous astronomer Edwin Hubble took the first image of the Hale telescope. You’re free to explore the museum and take a guided tour of the observatory itself. Please note that guided tours are subject to certain conditions, so be sure to ask beforehand.

Don’t forget to plan your visit, because although the observatory is open all year round, weather conditions or certain events may force it to close!

5. Oceanside getaway

After your desert and mountain road trip, why not relax and breathe in the iodized Pacific Ocean air in Oceanside? This laid-back coastal town bordered by vast sandy beaches has an old-fashioned charm that’s reminiscent of New England style. Its iconic harbor and picturesque wooden pier aren’t the only things to discover in Oceanside, so be sure to start your day with a visit to the California Welcome Center.

Not to be missed if you’re a thrill-seeker, iFLY Oceanside is sure to satisfy. Discover the sensations of weightlessness in this place where indoor skydiving is open to young and old.

Water sports enthusiasts will find plenty to indulge their pleasures here. Famous surf spots, paddleboarding, kayak or canoe rides, bodyboarding… there’s plenty to keep you entertained and enjoying the sea air! Oceanside is also a popular fishing spot.

Did you know that the city is one of fourteen state-recognized cultural districts? Throughout the town, you’ll discover murals created by local artists that bring the facades to life. Don’t forget your camera to capture the colorful and surprising memories of this visit!

To round off your seaside stroll, it’s essential to dine in one of the town’s restaurants, which is also one of the county’s gourmet destinations. Whether savory or sweet, it’s a true culinary experience to delight your taste buds.

6. Back to childhood at Legoland California

Leave Oceanside for San Diego and take a break at Legoland. With or without children, this is one of California’s best-known theme parks. There are several Lego theme parks in the USA (New York, Florida), but this is the first of its kind to open in 1999. With its many attractions based on the famous toy brand, Legoland also features slides and water play areas at the Water Park, and a large exhibition on underwater life at the Sea Life Aquarium.

You’ll find plenty of gentle rides and passive attractions, but also the chance to make your own creations with the famous bricks. There are also rides reserved for older visitors for more spectacular sensations, and an exhibition featuring the country’s great monuments: the Golden Gate Bridge, the White House, the Capitol, the French Quarter of New Orleans, the buildings of New York, Las Vegas… all, of course, made from Lego bricks!

After this colorful tour, head for San Diego to continue or complete your trip, and have a look to the most beautiful hotel of San Diego !

5/5 - (1 vote)